5 tips for troubleshooting PC system slowdowns

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Offline Mahbub

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5 tips for troubleshooting PC system slowdowns
« on: February 27, 2013, 06:00:59 PM »
1: File system issues and display options

Some file systems work better than others for large disk partitions. Windows 7 should always use the NTFS file system for best performance.

Cleaning up the file system will also help speed performance. You can use the Disk Cleanup tool to:

    Remove temporary Internet files.
    Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
    Empty the Recycle Bin.
    Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
    Remove optional Windows components you don’t use.
    Remove installed programs you no longer use.
    Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.

To run Disk Cleanup in Windows 7, click Start and type “Disk Cleanup” in the search box. Select the drive you want to clean up.

Another way to increase performance is by turning off some of the visual effects that make Windows 7 look cool but use valuable system resources. In Control Panel, click the System applet and in the left pane, click Advanced System Settings. Under Performance, click the Settings button and then the Visual Effects tab. Here, you can disable selected Aero effects or just click Adjust For Best Performance.

2. Background applications

Have you ever visited an end user’s desktop and noticed a dozen icons in the system tray? Each icon represents a process running in either the foreground or background. Most of them are running in the background, so the users may not be aware that they are running 20+ applications at the same time.

This is due to applications starting up automatically in the background. You can find these programs in the Startup tab of the System Configuration utility.

3. Disk fragmentation

As files are added, deleted, and changed on a disk, the contents of the file can become spread across sectors located in disparate regions of the disk. This is file fragmentation. All Windows operating systems subsequent to Windows NT have built-in disk defragmentation tools, but there are also third -party programs available that give you more options.

If you have traditional hard disks, disk fragmentation can significantly slow down your machine. The disk heads must move back and forth while seeking all the fragments of a file. A common cause of disk fragmentation is a disk that is too full. You should keep 20 percent to 25 percent of your hard disk space free to minimize file fragmentation and to improve the defragmenter’s ability to defrag the disk. So if a disk is too full, move some files off the drive and restart the defragmenter.

Note that SSDs work differently and can access any location on the drive in essentially the same amount of time. Thus, they don’t need to be defragmented.

4. BIOS settings

One frequently ignored cause of system slowdown is the machine’s BIOS settings. Most people accept the BIOS settings as they were configured in the factory and leave them as is. However, slowdowns may occur if the BIOS settings do not match the optimal machine configuration. Often, you can improve machine performance by researching your motherboard’s optimal BIOS settings, which may not be the same as the factory defaults.

There is no centralized database of optimal BIOS settings, but you can employ a search engine such as Google or Bing and use your motherboard name and BIOS as keywords to find the correct settings.

5. Disk type and interface

Once upon a time, buying a hard drive to work with your system was easy. Today, things are more complicated, with many types of drives available, offering differing levels of performance. Most modern motherboards will support more than one type.

For best performance, you may want to dump the old IDE PATA type drives and upgrade to SATA, which comes in several speeds  from 1.5 Gb/s to 6 Gb/s. Obviously, the faster drives will also be more expensive. Some new computers also have eSATA connectors for attaching a SATA drive externally. Other options for attaching drives externally include USB and Firewire/IEEE 1394.

Slowdowns may be caused by installing programs or often-used files on slow external drives. If you must use external drives for such files, go with the latest version, such as USB 3.0 (which is up to four times faster than USB 2.0) or Firewire 800. If you don’t have ports to support the faster version, you can install a card to add support.

New Solid State Drives (SSDs), which generally connect via SATA, can often provide better performance than other drive types, but cost much more per GB of storage space. Windows 7 includes support for TRIM, which optimizes SSD performance. SCSI drives are still around, too, notably in the form of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) with super fast access times — but they’re expensive and noisy and used primarily for servers.